Recently I have been exploring the work of Claude Raffestin, which has proved somewhat difficult as some of his work is in French.  Nevertheless, a number of articles are available that have really expanded my horizons in terms of recognizing the breadth of work in Human Geography generally and the contributions Raffestin has made (see Klauser, 2012).  Raffestin (1986, 1995, 2012) has spent time conceptualizing a ‘relational’ approach to territory and territoriality.  Simply put, territory is the actual space that is claimed and demarcated by actors on the landscape, territoriality is the process of negotiation in which these territories are determined, and Raffestin’s relational aspect proposes a perspective in which territory is “socially produced space” (2012, p.122).  Because this space is ‘socially’ produced, it implies that human actors affect how space is perceived and acted upon. Humans impose their labour on the landscape through various activities (i.e. migration, settlements, resource extraction) which shapes this space and through time comes to be perceived by these human actors as significant and demarcated in various ways.  Likewise, labour within this space also determines how humans interact with each other eventually forming unique behaviours and norms (i.e. culture).  As such, this relational approach outlines how space is not simply an empty medium in which human activity takes place, but is rather a useful construct for examining more complicated human-environment relations.

I am interested in how Raffestin’s work might be applied to a spiritual landscape.  Issues related to power and labour are critical to Raffestin’s work, and these concepts could be applied to deity interactions within space in creative ways.  The power and labour of deities is certainly perceived by human actors in multiple landscapes globally, and these perceptions shape how people act within space, thus initiating processes of territoriality.  Much of my own previous work, while focused primarily on development and ecotourism themes, has revealed many aspects related to human-deity interactions that guide various beliefs, values and behaviours.  Recently I have developed a draft manuscript that is currently under review, that reflects on these themes of territoriality and spiritual landscapes in light of this empirical data that was previously unused.  I hope to share this in the coming months.  Fingers crossed on the review process.   

Klauser, F. (2012). Thinking through territoriality: Introducing Claude Raffestin to Anglophone sociospatial theory. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 30, 106-120.

Raffestin, C. (1986). Territorialite : concept ou paradigme en geographie sociale? Geographica Helvetica, 2, 91-96.

Raffestin, C. (1995), Langue et territoire. Autour de la géographie culturelle.  In S. Walty and B. Werlen (eds.), Kulturen und Raum: theoretische Ansätze und empirische Kulturforschung in Indonesien, pp.87-104. Zurich: Rüegger.   

Raffestin, C. (2012). Space, territory, and territoriality.  Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 30, 121-141.